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Running Fit adds east side store, plans condos atop downtown store

Ann Arbor long-running community institution, Running Fit, is moving on up to the east side.

Owner (and appropriately named) Randy Step says the new Running Fit will open this weekend in the Arbor Hills shopping center on Washtenaw Avenue near Platt Road. It'll be the first new store in the eight-store chain in four years.

"We don't really open stores very often. We're not about expanding. It's based on a lot of things: the right staff, a trained staff, knowing the running community, the location," Step says. "We have a far west side store and a downtown store. This will make it easier for people to get to us...We've beent training a manager for a year...One of the best things is you can go for a run right from the store. There's a park across the street."

He's excited to be a part of mix of high-end stores - 17 as of now, he says - opening in Arbor Hills. Among them: Lululemon, The North Face, Anthropologie and a second location of dowtnown Ann Arbor's Cafe Zola.

"This should fit nicely," reaching runners Ypsilanti and other nearby cities. And we like the kinds of tenants that are there. They're for like-minded consumers."

The next big step for Running Fit could be adding condos above the downtown store. Step received approval last week from the Ann Arbor Historical Commission to make changes to the building he calls "the ugliest in Ann Arbor."

After a years of owning all but a fourth of the buiding Step and his parnter now own it all and are being encouraged by the city to add height to it and create density for downtown. The top of the building burned in the 1950s.

The condos, still many months away if the project indeed is worth pursuing, would add height with six, 900-square-foot condos, he says.

"We'll be going through at least a year and a half of approvals," he says. He next appears before the Ann Arbor city council in November.

Writer: Kim North Shine
Source: Randy Step, co-owner, Running Fit

AATA gets new name and new member as Ypsilanti joins regional transit agency

Regional transit got a boost last week as both the Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti City Councils unanimously approved the City of Ypsilanti’s request to join AATA/TheRide, prompting the organization to formally rename itself the Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority.
 
"The City of Ann Arbor and City of Ypsilanti are economically and culturally linked and the Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority serves as a better platform for improving transit in and between the county's two largest cities," says Ryan Buck, Director of the Washtenaw Area Transportation Study.
 
Since the April dissolution of the Washtenaw Ride, a failed attempt to establish a county-wide transit authority, AATA has focused on expanding service within the county’s "urban core" communities, including Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti, Saline, and Pittsfield Township.
 
The addition better positions the agency to make improvements like increased frequency on more routes and expanded weekend and evening hours, according to Don Kline, Marketing Coordinator for TheRide.
 
"With a stronger and better connected Urban Core, Washtenaw County is on a path towards a brighter future which benefits everyone, not just riders," says Kline.  
 
Source: Don Kline, Ryan Buck
Writer: Nina Ignaczak 

Lunch Room opens with chic style, 20 new jobs in Kerrytown

Considering the amount of hands-on effort Phillis Engelbert and Joel Panozzo put into their creative vegan fare, it's probably no surprise to learn how involved the co-owners of The Lunch Room were in the build-out of their new Kerrytown location, which opened last week. 
 
Working with longtime customers and architects Lisa Sauvé and Adam Smith, Engelbert and Panozzo spent months working to bring the chic, modern aesthetic to their 1,128 square foot space. 
 
"We were active in the construction process," says Panozzo, "but we were are really happy for the construct part to be over, and to be opening and making food."
 
If their first-week crowds were any indication, so were The Lunch Room customers. With busy lunch and dinner crowds, Engelbert and Panozzo grew their new staff from 15 to 20 in the first week, after realizing that their commitment to from-scratch cooking required constant dishwashing. 
 
"The huge thing about our business is not necessarily that it's that vegan," says Panozzo. "We're just making really good food, made in-house with real ingredients, and its conveniently vegan."
 
Among those handmade dishes are favorites from The Lunch Room's original food truck format, as well as a host of new entrees, such as a Southwestern Salad, Mac & Cheese and tempeh reuben, among others. Now open for dinner, Panozzo says The Lunch Room will soon themed nights featuring foods inspired by New Orleans, the Upper Peninsula and paella. 
 
The Lunch Room seats 35 inside and 20 diners outside in a hybrid counter- and table-service style. The restaurant also sells and serves fresh baked goods, such as donuts and muffins. 

Source: Joel Panozzo, The Lunch Room
Writer: Natalie Burg

Chiropractic meets nutrition at Saline's new Thrive! Wellness Center

Achieving good health is a comprehensive endeavor, and that's why a new Saline business is combining multiple practices – good nutrition, chiropractic and massage therapy. Thrive Wellness Center opened on State Rd. near Michigan Ave. about two months ago and will celebrate it's grand opening on Aug. 22.
 
".We help people improve their lives with nutrition," says Thrive Wellness Center's Front Desk Manager Jessica Bonesteel. "Dr. Shannon has found people respond to chiropractic [treatment] better when their nutrition is in line."
 
Dr. Shannon Roznay's approximately 2,500 square foot office currently employs Roznay, Bonesteel and a part-time massage therapist. In the future, Bonesteel says they plan to grow Thrive with additional practitioners based on the needs of their clients.
 
"We want to fill up the space and see as many people as possible," she says. "If we do that, we'll look at opening up another one."
 
In addition to treating clients with her comprehensive approach to wellness, Roznay also teaches her technique, called Nutrition Response Testing?, to other doctors. 

Source: Jessica Bonesteel, Thrive Wellness Center
Writer: Natalie Burg

Above Ground Salon to bring all-natural haircare to new Liberty St. space

After operating on the second floor of a State St. building for 11 years, Above Ground Hair Studio will soon be operating closer to the ground, as well as at the eye level of passersby on Liberty St.
 
"We just wanted to go downstairs and be more in the spotlight and show Ann Arbor what we do with natural methods," says Above Ground Hair Studio owner Cookie Gomez.
 
Gomez's unique approach to hair care focuses on all-natural products, styling techniques and cuts that work with each client's natural hair style. She even specializes in a cutting technique that she says helps stylists maintain a healthier body positioning and cutting motions. Gomez also teaches this technique to other stylists. 
 
"We started all natural from the get-go, doing all kinds of things with ethnic hair and branching out from there," says Gomez. "Girls are now seeing that going natural is best."
 
While her salon floor will be about the same size in her new location, the addition of a basement will give Above Ground more room to focus on hair. The six-stylist salon will soon grow to a nine-person team. 
 
Now working to renovate the space, Gomez hopes to move into her Liberty St. location this fall. Her goals with the more visible storefront is to bring the salon's unique approach to hair care to more people in Ann Arbor. 

Source: Cookie Gomez, Above Ground Hair Studio
Writer: Natalie Burg

Ann Arbor Bike Share program to bring 125 bikes downtown in April 2014

Want a bike? Take a bike. For members of the forthcoming Ann Arbor Bike Share program, it'll be that easy beginning in April of next year. At 14 stations throughout downtown, bike share members will be able pick up one of 125 bikes and use it to run errands, get to appointments or just take a quick ride. 
 
Though the date of the bike share program's launch was announced last week after the Ann Arbor City Council approved a $150,000 local match of a federal Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality (CMAQ) grant, its development has been underway by the Clean Energy Coalition and partners Ann Arbor Transportation Authority, University of Michigan and the City of Ann Arbor for some time.
 
"It was a number of years ago when several stakeholders were sitting around a room and talking about how this would be a great asset for the community," says Clean Energy Coalition's Heather Seyfarth, program supervisor. "We knew it could be a really great program, so we wanted to carefully plan it in such a way that benefits all those involved."
 
The bike share program will launch with $750,000 in capital funding and $800,000 in operational funding for three years. Clean Energy Coalition, along with AATA, secured $600,000 in CMAQ capital funding, and the University of Michigan has pledge $200,000 per year for operating costs. 
 
"[The partnerships] strengthen the program," says Seyfarth. "We have this major entity with an influx of population that comes in every year, and it will certainly serve their community, but with the city involved, it will be able to serve the residents as well, and help with expanding the program in the future."
 
Memberships will be available at downtown kiosks and online with annual, seven-day or 24-hour options. Though specific prices have not been determined Seyfarth estimates an annual membership will be $55 to $65. 

Source: Heather Seyfarth, Clean Energy Coalition
Writer: Natalie Burg

Ollie's Bargain Outlet opens in 36,000 sq ft Ypsi location

There's a new place to find low prices on name brand items in Ypsilanti. Ollie's Bargain Outlet, a Pennsylvania-based store with the slogan "Good stuff, cheap" opened last week on Ellsworth Rd. in the former Busch's Market location. A Lansing-area location opened on the same day.
 
"All of our stores are very similar," says Ollie's VP of Real Estate, Jerry Altland. "We buy cheap and sell cheap, and we always trying to sell name-brand products. That's what we do every day." 
 
Ollie's includes a wide variety of products, including apparel, electronics and grocery items. The 36,000 square foot location is one of 143 stores nationwide, including locations in Westland, Taylor and Farmington. Locations will soon open in Saginaw and Flint. Fifty to sixty new jobs were created with the opening of the Ypsilanti location.
 
"We're moving right across the state," Altland says. "We're trying to fill in from Detroit through the central part of Michigan."

Source: Jerry Altland, Ollie's Bargain Outlet
Writer: Natalie Burg

Hipsters Underground adds 'a little artsy, a little fartsy' touch to S. State

Bhen Jachimiak calls himself a "16-year survivor of life in retail management," and that status has informed every aspect of his new S. State St. venture, Hipsters Underground.

Located in a 1500 square foot space next to Star Vintage, the new retail store and events space is anything but a typical store.
 
"The store's tag-line of 'A little artsy, a little fartsy' fits me perfectly," says Jachimiak. "'Hipster' just seemed to fit the idea of not doing what other stores are doing."
 
Hipsters Underground opened on June 30, featuring eco-friendly, unique products from individual and local individuals and artists. Jachimiak says his primary goals with the store include supporting community and avoiding mass-produced and non-sustainable products. 
 
In addition to retail, Hipsters Underground is also an art gallery featuring local artists, as well as a gathering space for open mic nights, poetry readings and story slams. Though Jachimiak looked at a number of locations for his multi-purpose business, he says Ann Arbor was the obvious choice.
 
"I felt from the start that Ann Arbor would embrace my 'Recycled. Repurposed. Responsible.' motto," he says. "I love the location on central campus - the energy, the people, the constant 'commotion' on State Street."
 
Hipsters Underground celebrated their grand opening on July 20. The shop is currently operated by Jachimiak and his family, and he plans to grow a staff of up to five this fall. 

Source: Bhen Jachimiak, Hipsters Underground
Writer: Natalie Burg

DJ's Kitchen and Dining Smokehouse brings southern BBQ to Ypsi

It can't be a bad sign when a restaurant has been open for four days and is already seeing repeat customers.
 
"Everyone coming in has been loving our food," says Justin Allen, owner of the new DJ's Kitchen and Dining Smokehouse in Ypsilanti. "We've had some people come back every day."
 
Allen attributes the instant popularity to knowing exactly what the neighborhood wanted. In fact, the W. Michigan Ave. location appealed to him and his partners because they felt the neighborhood was in need of a restaurant, and a smokehouse seemed like the best fit. The from-scratch food couldn't be hurting their cause either. 
 
"We make all of our sauces and smoke all our own meats," says Allen. "All the meats cook between five and fourteen hours. We don't pre-make anything. It's all made to order, right down to the mac and cheese." 
 
Though born in Michigan, Allen perfected his smoking and barbecue skills in Oregon, where he considered opening a restaurant before moving back to the area to be close to family and to cut down on his couple-thousand-mile commute to Michigan football games. 
 
DJ's Kitchen and Dining Smokehouse is located on the 1,100 square foot first floor of a 2,300 W. Michigan Ave. building near Eastern Michigan University's campus. Allen is currently working to create a patio to add to their 26-person dining capacity, and hopes to renovate the second floor for additional seating in the future. The restaurant currently employs the three owner-operators. 

Source: Justin Allen, DJ's Kitchen and Dining Smokehouse
Writer: Natalie Burg
 

Dancer's Edge to expand into nearby 12,000 sq-ft space in Dexter

A forthcoming Dexter Downtown Development Authority project is coinciding with the growth of a local business. The Dexter DDA-owned property at 3045 Broad Street now houses the 10-year-old Dancer's Edge Studio. Owner Valerie Potsos will be expanding the business from its current, 7,000 square-foot space into a building she is purchasing across the street that will provide an extra 5,000 square feet for Dancer's Edge. The move will come in time for the DDA to proceed with the demolition of the current building.
 
Though the new space will give her business more space, Potsos says retaining a similar location was a big part of her decision to move right across the street.
 
"We have students coming from all over the state within a 100-mile radius," Potsos says. "Those students and families bring revenue to downtown Dexter by visiting the village's restaurants and shops."
 
Work on the building is slated to begin next February, and Potsos says discussions are still underway as to how the space will be utilized. The business now serves about 400 students and maintains a staff of about 20 part-time instructors. The new move not only reflects growth for Dancer's Edge, Potsos believes the entire neighborhood is growing into an artistic neighborhood.
 
"We plan on building an arts community," she says. "With our close proximity to the theater, there are so many synergistic things we can do together!"
 
The Dexter DDA intends to create a development plan for the property that will be demolished. 
 

Source: Valerie Potsos, Dancer's Edge
Writer: Natalie Burg

Wheels in Motion quadruples size with new showroom, commmunity space

With its new expansion complete, Ann Arbor's Wheels in Motion is really living up to its name. Not only has the bike shop's jump from 2,500 to 10,000 square feet grown its showroom space, but it's also giving area cyclists a new place to meet, attend events and enjoy wintertime training. 
 
"We'd outgrown it, and it limited us quite a bit," says owner DeWight Plotner of the former space. "We could only show about a quarter of our merchandise. We had a basement full of product, but people just didn't know about it."
 
Wheels in Motion is truly a family business. Now in its third generation since opening in 1933, Plotner's wife, Jackie, and children Travis and Chelsie work there as well. The family began work on the expanded space in March and opened it to the public last week. 
 
The larger store allows for the display of bikes from all of cycling categories and includes an area for customers to order custom-made bicycles. What Plotner is most excited about, however, are the new community spaces, which include a conference room for guest speakers, classes and events, as well as space for bike trainers to be set up for cycling groups to continue their training throughout the winter. 
 
"We've designed it to be very active, socially," he says. "We've expanded to work with the community as it grows, and to try to increase cycling in general in the area." 
 
Plotner expects the physical growth of the store to spur the growth of his staff as well. With 15 employees, Wheels in Motion has added about four new jobs over the last year, and Plotner says he plans to add additional positions as needed with the store's continued growth. 
 

Source: DeWight Plotner, Wheels in Motion 
Writer: Natalie Burg

Dolly Llama Tattoo brings artistic touch to Maple Rd. in Ann Arbor

The new Dolly Llama Tattoo on Maple Rd. is no ordinary tattoo shop, and co-owner Dani Felczak didn't get an ordinary start in the business. After studying fine art in college, becoming a mom and surviving cancer, Felczak decided it was time for her and partner Cee Jay Jones to pursue their dream. 
 
"We're both moms and essentially were looking to open our own doors to accommodate our busy schedules as parents and also give ourselves the artistic freedom to create beautiful tattoos without the typical pressures of the industry," Felczak says.
 
That's exactly what they're doing in the 600 square-foot Dolly Llama Tattoo in the now-bustling commercial plaza on Maple Rd. near Miller. Set away from the walk-in traffic that downtown shops attract, Felczak says the location helps them maintain connections with their clients and focus on their art-focused work.
 
"We aren't a typical 'street shop' and really cater to getting close with our clients and really learning each individual," Felczak says. "We have something special to offer that we feel other places lack -- a unique attention to detail, and wonderful approaches to tattooing that most of the traditional art based shops in the area don't do."
 
Felczak herself specializes in a unique use of color that she says produces "a very feminine quality." Her partner Jones specializes in cover-up tattoos and "breathing new life into tragic old mistakes." 
 
Dolly Llama employs three artists and an apprentice, and hosts guest artists from across the county. They also display local artwork. The shop opened on July 16 and will celebrate a grand opening in September.
 

Source: Dani Felczak, Dolly Llama
Writer: Natalie Burg



Traveling Gourmet offers personal chef service to Ann Arbor-area homes

Being a professional restaurant chef for more than 10 years has given Kelly Johnson a broad range of cooking experience. Working in the Traverse City area, she has learned how to prepare such cuisine styles as healthy, organic, comfort food, Asian, Latin, Italian and more. Now, she's bringing that smorgasbord of talents into the homes of area residents with Traveling Gourmet Personal Chef Service
 
"The personal chef business has been around for about 20 years," says Johnson. "The chefs go into people's homes and they cook for them, whatever they'd like, depending on diet or type of meals they need."
 
Johnson moved to Ypsilanti in January to be closer to family, and felt the timing was right to launch her own business. Traveling Gourmet Personal Chef offers weekly or bi-weekly cooking inside the clients' homes. She'll also offer catering services, but only to her personal chef clients.
 
Traveling Gourmet has been open for about a month. Johnson says she would eventually like to expand more into catering with a staff and a commercial kitchen. 
 
"So far so good," Johnson says of the newly-launched business. "I've had a several inquiries, and have a couple of clients already, but I'm still looking for more."
 

Source: Kelly Johnson, Traveling Gourmet
Writer: Natalie Burg

RJ's Coney Island brings new twist on old favorite to State St.

Anyone who walked into Mr. Greek's Coney Island over the past six months likely noticed some changes. Starting in November, the S. State St. restaurant began a gradual transformation that culminated in a grand opening and unveiling of its new identity as RJ's Coney Island.
 
"I've had people walk in and say, 'Where are we?' They were always pleasantly surprised," says new owner Ron Rzeppa. "It was just an ongoing thing, and we decided to unveil it to everyone on Art Fair weekend." 
 
The 2,000 square-foot restaurant received a makeover both to its look and its menu. The new restaurant features breakfast and lunch as well as desserts. In addition to renovating the interior, Rzeppa added sidewalk seating.
 
After working in the restaurant industry for some time, when Mr. Greek's came up for sale, Rzeppa decided it was time to go into business for himself. The family-owned business is run by a staff of 14 and pays homage to Rzeppa's late father, Ron Rzeppa Sr., who is featured on the RJ's Coney Island logo. 
 
"It's a way to share him with everyone," says Rzeppa. 
 
As RJ's becomes established, Rzeppa hopes to expand the restaurant's hours and add daily specials to the menu.


Source: Ron Rzeppa, RJ's Coney Island
Writer: Natalie Burg

Tamaki restaurant to serve quick, custom-made sushi in Ann Arbor

When something starts going well, it just makes good sense to roll with it. After opening his first Tamaki restaurant in Lansing's Frandor Shopping Center last year, restaurateur Frank Cheng witnessed a dramatic response to his unique take on fast, fresh, custom-made sushi and decided it was time to grow. In addition to plans to open an East Lansing location, a new Tamaki is slated to join the mix in downtown Ann Arbor this fall. 
 
"We were looking around and Ann Arbor fits the demographic," says Cheng. "We came here and drove by, and there was a space open for us. It was just what we were looking for." 
 
The 1,800 square-foot Liberty St. location will feature the same mix of rice bowls, noodles and custom-made sushi that has made Tamaki a success in Lansing. According to Cheng, the convenience of affordable, quick sushi made to order is a new offering ideal for its location. 
 
"Its proximity to campus, as well as Google and Barracuda Networks is really good," Cheng says. "We think they will love it. We're assembly-line Asian food. You don't see that elsewhere. You get to choose what you want at an affordable price."
 
Cheng hopes to start renovations on the space in August and open the new Tamaki in October. The restaurant will employ about10 workers and seat 40 to 50 diners. 

Source: Frank Cheng, Tamaki
Writer: Natalie Burg
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